Saturday, November 26, 2005

Sad News

Several years ago, at 2 1/2 years old, my youngest niece was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. There ensued 2 years of intensive and frightening therapies which were often as dangerous to her as the disease itself. Fortunately for our family, my niece beat the unfavorable odds and survived her illness. She is now in remission, and is enjoying a normal, active life. We learned today that one of her friends is losing his second fight.

Parents and children on pediatric oncology units tend to separate themselves into tribes, based on the age of the affected children, and the disease the children are fighting. The kids with my niece's diagnosis, almost all very young (the disease attacks babies and toddlers), became over time brothers and sisters of sorts. They all have natural siblings, but their fellow patients were their trench-buddies. They were all children who felt well, but were told they were sick, and then brought to a hospital where people gave them medicine that made them feel sick. Each knew what the other was suffering after surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or stem-cell harvesting without being told. They played together, went bald together, ate together when permitted to eat, celebrated their victories together, and even went to the same cancer-patient camps together the summers after their hospitalizations ended. Last year, the "older brother" of my niece's tribe was told his cancer had come back, and was inoperable. After a year of fighting the illness again, all his options have been exhausted, none of the children's hospitals can think of any way to prolong his life, and his health is failing. At nine years old, all he wishes for now is that no other kids have to have cancer like he did. Me too.

(Note: Edited for intelligibility)

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